AT&T continues to build an impressive Windows Phone lineup. The Samsung Focus 2 is the latest to find its way to store shelves and joins the Nokia Lumia 900 and HTC Titan II as 4G LTE Windows Phones.
The Samsung Focus 2 catches your attention on two fronts. First, it's glossy white body sets it apart from the traditional black or gray smartphones. Second, the $49.99 contractual price makes it a very affordable Windows Phone that is just as capable as the $99.99 Nokia Lumia 900 or the $150 HTC Titan II.
We may refer to the Focus 2 as an entry level Windows Phone but that may not be an accurate description. Economical? Base line? Regardless of the term, the Focus 2 is really only hindered by it's smaller storage space (8gb vs. 16gb) when compared to the Titan II or the Lumia 900. Sure it has a smaller camera (5mp vs. 8mp) but the Focus 2 can give the Lumia 900 a run for its money with respect to image quality.
The Focus 2 may not appeal to everyone but if your looking for a low cost, nicely built, capable Windows Phone it's worth consideration.
Compact feel. Gorilla Glass. Super AMOLED screen. Economically priced. All the bells and whistles we've come to expect from a Windows Phone (compass, accelerometer, front facing camera, etc.) The Samsung Focus 2 has plenty of positives that many will find appealing.
Some may not like the 8gb of storage, some may not like the white finish or the slick feel and some may not like the smaller 4" screen. There's just not anything clear cut bad about the Samsung Focus 2. It may not appeal to everyone but we can't call that a bad thing.
The Samsung Focus 2 is a baseline Windows Phone that is very capable of meeting your day to day smartphone needs. It's well constructed, has a quality screen, respectable battery life, and an attractive price tag. While it may not be everyone's cup of tea with its white finish and smaller storage capacity, the Samsung Focus 2 is a worthy successor to the original Samsung Focus.
Samsung Focus 2: Design
The Samsung Focus 2 is somewhat similar to its older brother, the original Samsung Focus. Measuring 4.97" x 2.47" x .43" the Focus 2 is just a smidgen smaller than the Focus (4.84" x 2.56" x .39"). The Focus 2 is slightly heavier (4.3 ounces compared to 4.1 ounces) than the Focus as well.
While there are slight differences in these two phone's dimensions, the Focus 2 fits comfortably in the hand. Having used larger Windows Phones such as the HTC Titan and Titan II, the Focus 2 has a compact feel to it.
The layout of the Focus 2 has the power button on the upper right side of the phone with the camera button just below. Along the left side you will find the volume rocker and the micro USB ports sits on the bottom of the Focus 2. Your 3.5mm headphone jack sits up top and a 5mp camera is to the rear of the Focus. The face of the Focus 2 has the customary three capacitive button set for Windows Phones and a VGA front-facing camera. The capacitive buttons are brightly lit upon the touch and stays lit for a good bit. Compared to the dimness of the Nokia Lumia 900's buttons, the Samsung Focus 2 buttons could double as airport runway lights.
Unlike the most recent Windows Phones, the Focus 2 does not have a unibody design. Which basically means it has a battery cover and removable battery. The battery cover is a peal-away type that is held in place by a series of tabs that snap into place. The cover is not as flimsy as the Samsung Focus S's but you can't help but wonder how easy those little snap-tabs could break.
The Focus 2 has a glossy white body that is accented with chrome trim. The white finish definitely makes the Focus 2 stand out. My reservations on a white Windows Phone is much like my reservations on wearing a white shirt. It looks good until you get that first dirt spot.
The Focus 2's finish does have a slick feel to it but the phone is not slippery to handle. First, it's small enough that you can wrap your fingers around it for a solid grip. Second, the slick feel does have a little tackiness to it (especially on those warm and humid days) to give the phone a bit of grippiness as well. The Focus 2 has a different feel to its finish than the darker finished Windows Phones but not necessarily in a bad way.
After using the Focus 2 after a few days, the white case seems to hold up against the grit and grime of everyday use. You don't have the issue of finger smudges a dark finish has and the white case seems to frame the 4" Super AMOLED screen to make it stand out a little.
All in all, we can't complain much about the design of the Samsung Focus 2. It may not feel as solid as the Nokia Lumia 900 but the Focus 2 is well constructed within its own right.
Samsung Focus 2: Screen
The Samsung Focus 2 is fitted with a 4" Super AMOLED screen that performs really nice. Where Samsung had problems with the brightness on the Focus S, the Focus 2's screen performs more closely to the original Focus. If not a shade better.
The Samsung Focus 2's screen is protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass to give the Windows Phone an added layer of protection.
Colors were nicely saturated, the screen nice and contrasty, and brightness levels were just right. Indoors the Super AMOLED screen shines but outdoors, it still has some room for improvement. Outdoors the Focus 2 is viewable but can be a little on the dark side and challenging to read at times. First, here's a sample with the Samsung Focus 2 under direct light and the screen is tough to read.
But bring the Focus 2 out of the direct light and shade it a little, things start to improve.
Is the Samsung Focus 2's Super AMOLED better than the Titan II's Super LCD? It's a subjective measure with no real winner seeing that the two screens come from differing technologies. The Focus 2 is more saturated while the Titan II has more brighter, natural colors. Both are quality screens and if you like the look of the original Focus, you'll like the screen of the Focus 2.
With regards to sensitivity, the Focus 2's screen moves along nicely to the touch. Swiping, tapping, touching, holding and all the other multi-touch responses were spot on.
All in all, the Samsung Focus 2's screen is very respectable. Screen quality really shines indoors but outdoors, there is some room for improvement.
Samsung Focus 2: Under the hood
Under the hood of the Samsung Focus 2 you will find a removable 1750mah battery. In testing the battery through WP Bench, the battery lasted just over four hours. Granted battery life is dependent on how you use your Windows Phone, the Samsung Focus 2's battery should easily get you through the day on a single charge.
You will also find a 1.4ghz processor, 512mb of RAM and 8gb of storage. With all the pre-loaded software and the Windows Phone OS, out of the box you will have 6.23gb of available storage.
Some will find the memory storage on the Focus 2 too limiting but keep in mind the Focus 2 is a baseline model. It's not designed for the "power user" who likes to keep everything but their kitchen sink loaded on their device. Still, 8gb will be enough for the average user. Toss in the use of SkyDrive and you really shouldn't have an issue with storage space. We really can't knock the Focus 2 for only having 8gbs of storage.
Asides the smaller storage capacity, the Focus 2 has the same components under the hood as other Windows Phones. There is the accelerometer, gyroscope, gps, and compass. You have Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity and 4G LTE (for those lucky enough to have that service).
Settings for the Focus 2 are your typical Windows Phone settings that also include a High Fidelity Position setting. This basically brings GLONASS (Russian GPS Network) into play to improve the accuracy of the Focus 2's location services by essentially bringing more satellites into play. With respect to ringtones, while the Focus 2 may not have the ... ringtones of the Titan II it does come equipped with nice range of 52 ringtones.
While the Samsung Focus 2 comes in as a base line Windows Phone, even with the smaller 8gb of storage, it is a strong performer. Are other Windows Phones more capable? Sure, but we would have no problem relying on the Focus 2 for our everyday needs.
There's very little to see here. The Samsung Focus 2 is loaded with Windows Phone 7.5 (version 7.10.8112.7), the customary AT&T software suite, and a few of the Samsung apps (Photo Studio, Now, etc.). The nice thing about all the pre-loaded apps is that if you don't care for the app, you can uninstall them to free up storage space. Out of the box, with respect to software, the Samsung Focus 2 can hit the ground running and as simple as it is to install new apps, it takes little time to get up to speed with additional apps.
Samsung Focus 2: Camera
The Samsung Focus 2 is fitted with a 5mp, 3.5mm (about 30mm equivalent in 35mm terms), f2.5 rear facing camera and a VGA front facing camera. The software driving the cameras is your basic Windows Phone camera software with very little bells and whistles.
You have controls to:
- Tweak exposure, contrast, saturation and sharpness
- Set your ISO level. Choose your light metering mode
- Choose your AF mode
- Choose your image quality and resolution
- Choose one of three camera effects (mono, negative, and sepia).
For more creative controls, Samsung includes their Photo Studio app that has a series of editing effects as well as a panorama feature.
With respect to image quality, the Focus 2 can hold it's own up against the larger 8mp camera on the Nokia Lumia 900. We actually think the Focus 2's camera is a nudge better than the Lumia 900. Images came out sharp, nicely saturated but whites seemed to be a little over exposed. We also saw a little banding in some images. Everything we experienced could be edited and overall image quality improved through post processing software. However, if you aren't inclined to dabble with photo editing software we found the following internal settings helped improve things a bit.
- Contrast - high
- Saturation - high
- Sharpness - medium
- EV - (-1)
- ISO - auto
- Metering - centered weighted
- White balance -auto
The camera is equipped with a digital zoom (4x maybe?) that works best at closer distances. When you try to zoom into subjects that are at a distance, the distortion and pixelation is more evident. The first set of images were shot indoors from about two feet away from the subject. The second set of images were shot at a more considerable distance away from the subjects.
As far as video capture is concerned, the Focus 2 is capable of shooting 720p High Definition video. Video quality was nice from both the front and rear cameras. Unfortunately the weather wasn't too cooperative and all we had to contend with was overcast skies.
Overall, we were pleased with the Samsung Focus 2's camera performance. It may not be able to pace itself with the Titan II's camera but the Focus 2 can hold it's own against other 5mp and 8mp Windows Phone cameras.
Other observations on the Samsung Focus 2
- With respect to the Samsung Focus 2's performance as a phone, calls came in loud and clear. The microphone picked up my voice nicely using a normal tone. Earpiece speaker volume was nice and I actually had to dial the volume down a bit. Speakerphone volume was good but did get a little toney when maxed out.
- The Samsung Focus 2 does have Visual Voice Mail, which we like a lot.
- Volume, power and camera buttons operated smoothly with no stiffness or softness present. As with the Focus S and Flash, Samsung dropped the sliding cover for the micro-USB port on the Samsung Focus 2.
- The Samsung Focus 2 uses a micro-SIM card which may be an issue if you swap phones with frequency. There are adapters you can buy such as this one at Amazon.com that work rather well. The industry is slowly transitioning to the smaller SIM card (why the Titan II doesn't use one is a bit of a mystery) and for a while they may be a slight pain.
Samsung Focus 2: Is it better than the 900?
Let me start out by sitting squarely on the fence and say both the Samsung Focus 2 and the Nokia Lumia 900 are both very good Windows Phones. Which is better is purely a subjective measure with neither displaying qualities that would have you run screaming from the room.
Having said that, the build quality of the Nokia Lumia 900 is more solid with the uni-body design (heck, it can drive nails) and the screen a smidgen better (might be the size that makes the difference here). However, I like that you can access the Samsung Focus 2's battery and the camera on the Focus 2 is better than the Lumia 900's camera.
The Samsung Focus 2 has 8gb of storage while the Lumia 900 has 16gb. This may or may not be an issue depending on your specific needs.
The Samsung Focus 2 is running $49.99 while the Lumia 900 is running $99.99. Again, this may or may not be an issue. You can find better deals on the Lumia 900 through third party retailers but you should be able to find similar deals on the Focus 2 once the newness wears off.
Then you have the intangible of company support. Nokia has definitely set the bar high on customer service and product support. It's not to say Samsung's support of the Focus 2 is poor, but it is something to watch.
So which is better? Our advice is to bebop down to your local AT&T store and tinker with both. See which feels better in your hand, suits your tastes the best and fits your budget. Neither is a bad choice and we think the Samsung Focus 2 might surprise you.
Samsung Focus 2: Overall Impression
In a nutshell, if you're looking for a compact, economical Windows Phone the Samsung Focus 2 is well worth considering. If you're curious about Windows Phones and don't want to invest much into things, the Samsung Focus is worth considering.
The Focus 2 is a baseline model and may not appeal to everyone due to the smaller storage space. Out of the box, you have just over 6gb available and that should be enough for light to moderate users. I consider myself a heavy user with my Windows Phone loaded down with apps I'm reviewing. At last check I have about 7gb installed and could easily trim things down and go well below 6gb. Eight gigabytes may not appeal to everyone but add cloud storage it should meet most users needs.
Beyond the smaller storage, the Focus 2 isn't much different from any other Windows Phone. It has Bluetooth, Wifi, an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, 4G LTE compatibility, and all the goodness of the Windows Phone operating system.
While the Focus 2 has a slick feel to the finish, the Windows Phone fits comfortably in the hand. The 4" Super AMOLED screen performs exceptionally well indoors but is a little on the dark side outdoors.
I have to admit, after a few days the white finish grows on you and it held up nicely against the grit and grime of daily use. The white finish does makes the Focus 2 stand out.
Again, the Samsung Focus 2 won't appeal to everyone but that should not be a poor reflection on a very nice, baseline Windows Phone. The Samsung Focus 2 is currently being offered through AT&T for $49.99 under contract ($399.99 off contract).
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